by Jackson Walsh
Here we go again, after upending the Colorado Avalanche in six games, the Nashville Predators host yet another playoff hopeful in Downtown Nashville at Bridgestone Arena. The famous “Smash Car” has been changed to a Smash “Jet“ for the visiting Winnipeg Jets, a team fastly growing into one of their fiercest Central division foes.
Sadly, the 2nd Round battle began with a 4-1 Winnipeg win Friday night. A game that felt like a misnomer since Nashville ran the stats up and also succeeded in staying outside the box, so even managing to outplay the Jets, but still couldn’t come up with the win.
It was a particularly uncharacteristic and sad game for Pekka Rinne, as even though not many shots came his way, the Jets still put three in the back of the net past him. It was Brandon Tanev that opened the scoring on a back door feed off a rebound from a Bryan Little shot to start the bleeding. 1-0 Jets, and it’s just getting started.
Shot after shot from the Preds, save after save from Hellebuyck. Just nothing could get past this man. Then to make matters worse, Paul Stasny shot another one in off a high bouncing puck in the slot. 2-0 Winnipeg and frustration sets in.
Winnipeg would score again after Nashville’s star winger Filip Forsberg nearly slapped home a beautiful one timer that rang off the iron, leading to yet another odd man rush where Mark Scheifele scored a soft served slapper through the five hole to make it 3-0 Winnipeg.
The only bright spot of the night that put a zap of life into the Nashville faithful was Kevin Fiala tapping in a goal through an open hole to end 163 minutes of Connor Hellebuyck’s incredible shutout hockey.
But more of the same, opportunities in vain and clear after clear and Winnipeg got an easy empty net goal again from Scheifele to cement the 4-1 defeat.
This game hurts. It really hurts. Losing Game 1 on home ice by three goals, there aren’t many bright spots. But like I said, the 4-1 loss is a bit of a misnomer. The Predators outshot Winnipeg 48-19, a 29 shot differential. Not only that, but they won 66% of faceoffs and, as was said before, they stayed out of the box and had three opportunities. But we were three down in the category that counts: goals. And Pekka was pulled.
So there are pros and cons, but it’s a tough pill to swallow having a home game stolen from us. The big difference that may be overlooked is Winnipeg’s unbelievable 26 blocked shots. The defensive core for the Jets did a great job in keeping chances low and stopping any hard rushes to build pressure.
The loss of Austin Watson proved to be a factor as well, as he is that playmaker we’ve found can lead to the goals and even score some back door chances. But once again, we did have some statistical victories out there, statistics that’ll be hard to lose four if replicated.
All that’s left to say is, on to Sunday. Hopefully the performance repeats itself in the form of a win.
Photo credit: The Associated Press AP